What You Should Know About Bullet Journaling


If you’re constantly on the lookout for ways you can be more productive and organized (hey, who isn’t?), you’ve probably heard of bullet journaling or dot journaling.

I’m right there with you. But, after seeing so many different articles and Instagram posts singing its praises, I admittedly still felt skeptical.

Wow, so much beautiful handwriting and fun washi tape patterns! I’d think to myself while oggling those photos. But also, how incredibly time-consuming—and maybe even unnecessary.

So, with all of those cynical and conflicting thoughts swimming around in my mind, I figured the only way to get an honest lowdown of what bullet journaling involved was to try it for myself. That’s exactly what I did for an entire month—and now I’m here to share all my findings with my fellow skeptics out there.

What Is Bullet Journaling?

Despite my familiarity with bullet journaling as a concept, I still knew next to nothing about how to actually get things rolling for myself. In order to familiarize myself with the basics, I turned to the experts and purchased this set, which included a blank dot notebook and a practical guide to show me the ropes.

The companion guide explained that bullet journaling is simply a method for planning, journaling, and note-taking—all in one place.

Yes, that means you might end up with a shopping list on a page sandwiched between your Monday and Tuesday to-do list. Ugh, the thought alone made me itchy.

But, in reality, that’s no problem (it’s actually how bullet journaling was designed to function). That’s why one of the first pages of your journal should be a table of contents, where you log the page numbers for your different lists and notes.

So far, this made me feel as if I was just going to create one giant, jumbled notebook (how was this the holy grail of organization?).

However, there’s another thing that makes bullet journaling special: The idea is to use short sentences and designated symbols in order to categorize and track different information (such as notes, to-dos, and events).

Considering I’ve barely managed to commit my own social security number to memory, I was worried about remembering those symbols. So, at the book’s suggestion, I put a key on one of the very first pages in my notebook:

Those are the core symbols that you need to know in order to properly categorize the different information you’ll keep in your notebook. But, beyond that? You have free rein. If you’re expecting a giant rulebook, you’ll be pleased (or, if you’re a “by the book” person like me, totally horrified) to discover that bullet journaling is really flexible.

There are tons of different layouts (you’ll hear aficionados refer to them as “spreads”) that you can play around with—from monthly spreads—like mine below—to fitness tracking spreads (whoops, I mysteriously skipped one of those).

In fact, there are so many different options that I couldn’t possibly detail everything here. I highly recommend checking out the practical guide for a deep dive if you’re interested.

Personally, I used my journal most for a monthly spread and then for creating a daily spread where I could log my normal to-do list and relevant notes. Here’s what that ended up looking like (be forewarned, my handwriting is not Insta-worthy):

So, after an entire month, what did I think about this whole thing? Let’s dive into some pros and cons.

The Pros

  • It Kept Things Streamlined: As an aspiring professional list-maker, this was awesome.
  • It Made Me Plan Ahead of Time: Can someone say accountability? (I can!)
  • It Pushed Me to Journal: And that is something I’ve been saying I’ve wanted to find time to do.

The Cons

  • It’s Inconvenient: Unless you take it everywhere you go, it doesn’t work as well as it could
  • It’s a Time Investment: See photos throughout this article if you need more information on that.

Should You Try it?

If you want the short answer, yes, I absolutely think you should give it a go.

Arguably the best part is that there’s so much flexibility—meaning there are virtually endless things you can try to make it function for you.

It might take you some trial and error to land on the system that works best (personally, I’m still playing around and making some tweaks to try out different spreads and see how this method can better fit in with the organizational tools I already use). But, that’s the beauty of bullet journaling—you have the breathing room to do just that.

With that in mind, I’ll leave you with one final word of advice I learned from my own experiment: When you’re still figuring out how bullet journaling works, use pencil.

Are you already convinced of the magic of bullet journaling? Or, did this article give you the push you needed to give it a try? Let me know on Twitter!

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